“Stop killing us” is a rallying cry Reverend Sheri Amore Dickerson has used for years to call out police in Oklahoma for its disproportionate rate of police violence against Black and brown residents in Sooner state.
“Our law enforcement agencies are militarized, and they consistently use brutal force and there’s a disparity of Black and brown people that are victims in those situations,” said Dickerson.
The Lancet found that between 1980 and 2019, Oklahoma has the highest rate of deadly police violence in the country, and the finding is especially alarming for the state’s Black residents, who account for 6 out of every 10 police homicide victims despite Black Americans making up 7 percent of the Sooner State population.
Dickerson is the executive director of the Oklahoma City Black Lives Matter chapter. She’s also provides spiritual counsel to Black families who lost loved ones at the hands of police in Oklahoma.
In recent years, the state has had a series of police-related killings including a 2016 incident involving Terence Crutcher, 40, an unarmed Black man who was killed by Tulsa Police officer Betty Shelby after his SUV stalled on a highway.
Crutcher’s killing drew national attention and protest, but Shelby was acquitted of manslaughter in his death. In December 2020, Bennie Edwards, 60, was killed by police after he allegedly charged police with a knife before taking off and running away from police, when officer Clifford Holman shot Edwards in the back. Holman was later charged with manslaughter.
Dickerson says a year before George Floyd’s murder gripped the nation, in May 2019 a similar incident occurred in Oklahoma involving Derrick Scott, 42, who was arrested on the ground with an officer’s knee on his neck. “Mr. Scott was saying I cannot breathe, and he did not make it to the hospital for treatment,” said Dickerson. The officers involved were not criminally charged.
In April of 2019, Isaiah Lewis, 17, was killed by police after reportedly breaking into a house. As he fled from police through a neighborhood naked, he was gunned down. The officer involved was not criminally charged.
While not surprised to learn Oklahoma has a proven and deadly reputation for run-ins with police if you’re not white, Dickerson says in addition to protesting, activists are trying other methods to create change. She is part of a task force made up of fellow activists, community members, clergy, and law enforcement to address the state’s police violence.
“We’re still trying to get all of those involved, especially law enforcement to acknowledge that there is an issue with police violence and some of the only times they’ve even spoken up was when the term violence was actually used, they were objecting saying it’s not violence, and I said that’s exactly what it is even if you look at the core definition,” she said.
Ending police violence and abolishing the death penalty have been the focus for Dickerson and the Black Lives Matter movement in the state that’s 74 percent white. She knows keeping issues harming Black, brown, and indigenous communities front and center are critical.
“Our main demand has been to stop killing us and that’s across the board in all forms of state sanctioned violence whether it be through interactions with law enforcement or capital punishment,” she said.
Atlanta Black Star sought comment from the Oklahoma City Police Department, and the agency’s spokesperson said because they are a municipality it would be “inappropriate to comment” on the Lancet report and referred ABS to the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police.
ABS sought comment from the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police and the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police and did not hear from either outlet at the time of this report.
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